The Love Bugs

 

Join the Essig Museum and the Pacific Coast Entomological Society

for a special screening of “The Love Bugs

8:00pm on 5 September 2019, at 2040 Valley Life Science Building

Over the course of 60 years, Lois and Charlie O’Brien, two of the foremost entomologists and pioneers in their field, traveled to more than 67 countries and quietly amassed the world’s largest private collection of insects. He was the Indiana Jones of entomology and she was his Marion Ravenwood. Their collection is a scientific game-changer with more than one million specimens and more than 1,000 undiscovered species. During the past several years, however, Charlie and Lois have grappled with the increasingly debilitating effects of Charlie’s Parkinson’s disease and the emotional toll it takes on Lois. They realize that a chapter of exploration and discovery is coming to an end in their lives. But they live in a time when the beleaguered field of science needs them most, and the O’Briens know they need to keep fighting for it. So they turn to their 1.25 million insects for a little help! The Love Bugs interweaves the O’Briens’ present day journey with animated watercolor illustrations that reveal their past in a humorous and poignant documentary short that explores the nature of Love–and the love of Nature–and what it means to devote oneself completely to both.

Charlie and Lois garnered worldwide attention in 2017 when they announced that they would be donating their $10 million dollar insect collection to Arizona State University. Their collection will reshape entomology for years to come, but outside of entomology circles it was not widely known that such a valuable collection existed. We live in a time when insect populations are declining worldwide at an alarming rate. This decline has a domino effect that could impact all other aspects of an ecosystem and humanity as a whole and the O’Briens’ collection is not only a snapshot of the past of insect life on this planet. It is also a valuable key to providing insights into the potential future of insect life and biodiversity patterns. We want this film to inspire wonder and reverence for the complexity and beauty of insects. We also live in a time when the value of teaching science and the value of investing in science is being questioned at a federal level. We deeply need stories that can help foster a paradigm shift by showcasing scientists as human beings–not only as people who passionately dedicate their lives to something that others might see as trivial, but as human beings whose work is crucial and with whom we can empathize.

Ed Ross Photograph Collection

Annu. Rev. Entomol. 2009

Edward S. Ross (1915-2016) was a pioneer of close up photography. Ed received his PhD in 1941 with the Department of Entomology at UC Berkeley, where he was a teaching assist for E.O. Essig.   Before finishing his degree he was offered the position of Curator of Entomology at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco in 1939, and two years later became chair of the entomology department, a position he held for 41 years. Initially Ed was interested in Histerid beetles, but soon switched to webspinners (Embiidina), a group for which little was known at the time. His studies took him around the world, particularly to the tropics where webspinners are most diverse. During his travels Ed photographed arthropods, plants, mammals, people, and natural landscapes. His images appeared in numerous publications including National Geographic Magazine, Insects Close Up, and Insects and Plants. In 2018, Ed’s collection of ~100,000 35mm slides were generously donated to the Essig Museum of Entomology by his wife, Sandra Miller Ross, to be digitized and made available for research, education, and outreach. Once digitized, the images will be available through CalPhotos.

Lepidopterists honor Jerry Powell

Speakers from the Powell symposium (l-r): Dave Wagner, Frank Hsu, Felix Sperling, Eric Metzler, Dan Rubinoff, Jerry Powell, Jim Kruse, Kelly Richers, Peter Oboyski, John Brown.

Dr. Jerry Powell was honored on July 30, 2017, at the Lepidopterist Society annual meeting in Tucson, Arizona, with a symposium organized by John Brown, Dan Rubinoff, and Dave Wagner. Speakers included students and colleagues who roasted and toasted Jerry, who sat with his wife Liz in arm chairs at the front of the room. A general theme throughout the presentations (besides Jerry’s demanding and often gruff facade) was how he influenced the trajectory of each person’s career. Others who chimed in remotely, either by Skype or email, included: Dan Janzen, Jim Liebherr, Cheryl Barr, and John De Benedictis. 

Jerry and Liz with front row seats to the roastng.

Jerry is known largely for his work in Lepidoptera, particularly microlepidoptera (ie. small moths). His publications (>240) include Moths of Western North America, (Field Guide to) California Insects, the biology and systematics of spruce budworm, Lepidoptera of the California Channel Islands, yuccas and yucca moths, insects of California sand dune habitats, and a long list of collaborations on various moth groups, including the taxonomy, systematics, and biology of Tortricidae, Heliodinidae, Ethmiidae, Prodoxidae, Pyralidae, and many others. He described as new 227 species of Lepidoptera, and collected over 440 holotypes in various groups. Over 40 species of insects have been named for Powell in seven orders to-date (Hemiptera x1, Neuroptera x1, Diptera x9, Coleoptera x4, Hymenoptera x5, Trichoptera x1, Lepidoptera x22). A true “vacuum cleaner” collector, Powell has contributed many hundreds of thousands of specimens to the Essig Museum of Entomology, where he still curates the Lepidoptera collection a few hours every day.

Comic on Powell’s office door.

Speakers also reminded the audience of their favorite Powell quotes and phrases: “If it was easy someone would have done it already”, “Science moves forward by creeps and jerks”, “chowdered”, “corked”, “good grief”, “One larva; two larvae / NO EXCEPTIONS”, Powell’s Law: “No biologist studies anything found within 100 miles of where they live.”

Although Jerry’s main research focus has always been the insect fauna of western North America, especially California, what was evident from the comments of speakers and other contributors is Jerry’s depth and breadth of knowledge in both insects and plants (and their interactions), and his influence on the careers of entomologists throughout the country and on most continents. Perhaps just as telling is a comment made by a citizen scientist helping to digitize label data from the Essig Museum specimen collection through our Notes From Nature portal who quipped, “Who is this Jerry Powell? Is he some sort of vampire? He has been collecting for over 60 years!”

Jerry Powell collecting in Anza Borrego, March 2017.

 

“Bugged” – California Alumni Magazine, Fall 2017

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The Essig Museum of Entomology was featured in the fall 2017 issue of the California Alumni Magazine. The issue explores the many different uses of the word “bug”, as best explained by UC Berkeley School of Information professor, Geoffrey Nunberg, in Krissy Eliot’s article An Entomological Etymology. The feature article on the Essig Museum, by Pat Joseph, explores the past, present, and future importance of The Bug Collection. The magazine also includes For Love of Roaches: confessions of an entomophile by Kaitlyn Kraybill-Voth, a UC Berkeley graduate who spent over three years working as a collections assistant in the Essig Museum.

As if the words and photos are not enough, video journalist Marika Petrey created four short videos that are available below: Introducing Bugged, How to Mount a Moth, How to Kill the Specimen, and Why Entomology? These videos provide a sneak peak into the daily activities of the Essig Museum. Enjoy!